Jack Ross on Sunderland's win over Bristol Rovers and the big Stadium of Light test his players came through
Jack Ross says he was pleased his players came through the 'apprehension' of the first half to land three valuable points against Bristol Rovers.
The Black Cats fell behind to an early goal but fought back to cut the gap to Portsmouth at the top of League One.
Their pre-match preparations were hit by injuries to Tom Flanagan and Reece James, while Jon McLaughlin had to come off in the second half due to a back spasm.
Ross said given those challenges, the result superseded everything else.
"I've just finished saying to the players, because of the time of the year, the conditions and the circumstances, the result is of paramount importance," Ross said.
"To the player's credit they have ground it out,and I sometimes don't think they've had the credit they deserve for getting to this stage of the season having only been beaten once in the league. It's a very good record.
"We had the late change in the warm up to deal with, I thought the first 15 minutes, I was quite pleased, taking out the goal which is obviously the most important thing.
"We were OK, and then the players kept creating chances, the frustration obviously being in not taking them.
"I was pleased psychologically they got that reward before half-time.
"The second half we worked hard to get ahead and could have been more comfortable," he added.
"I've seen us play worse this season, I've seen us play better.
"I also thought first half, it's the first time I've sensed that real apprehension the stadium.
"It was a test for the players because we've come too far as a group to let that get to us if you like. It was good they came through the period.
"What they did in second half was regenerate that positive feel in the ground.
"Giving everything that happened, I'm just pleased with the win."
The points were secured thanks to Josh Maja, who scored his twelfth league goal of the campaign.
Ross believes his form is improving and again paid tribute to his finishing ability.
"I thought that Josh was good when he came on during the week, I thought he was brighter again today," Ross said.
"We forget that he's only 19, he'll be up and down in terms of his form.
"He creates an opportunity in the first half with some good play and the only surprise was he didn't score.
"The second half he gets the chance and I don't think anyone in the stadium thinks he won't take it, that's testament to his ability."